Sog.: dal romanzo Build My Gallows High di Geoffrey Homes [Daniel Mainwaring]. Scen.: Geoffrey Homes, Frank Fenton. F.: Nicholas Musuraca. M.: Samuel E. Beetley. Scgf.: Albert S. D’Agostino, Jack Okey. Mus.: Roy Webb. Int.: Robert Mitchum (Jeff Bailey), Jane Greer (Kathie Moffat), Kirk Douglas (Whit Sterling), Rhonda Fleming (Meta Carson), Richard Webb (Jim), Steve Brodie (Jack Fisher), Virginia Huston (Ann Miller), Paul Valentine (Joe Stefanos), Dickie Moore (il bambino). Prod.: Warren Duff per RKO Radio Pictures 35mm. D.: 87’. Bn.
Generally held as the perfect film noir, Out of the Past has Mitchum at his most romantically morose and fatalistic. Publicist-turned-novelist Daniel Mainwaring knew what he was doing when he had that hook at the end of his novel Build My Gallows High: “No studio could resist this kind of sensational death”, he said later of the sure sale to RKO. Neither could director Jacques Tourneur, who took his crew to his favorite fishing creek in the California Sierras around Bridgeport. It was also an interesting mix: Tourneur must have been amused at Kirk Douglas’ frustration. Douglas tried his best, but Mitchum would just look at him twirling that fob chain. As the big operator Whit Sterling, Douglas is fine, but those are two distinct acting schools. One tries hard, the other one seems to try not at all. Jane Greer (between two long Howard Hughes bans that kept her from acting) was a much better femme fatale than any moll, her loveliness making Kathie Moffatt more interesting as a chronic liar. And if you wonder why Paul Valentine, playing Sterling’s henchman, is so pleasant and light-footed for a movie heavy, it is because he was a ballet dancer (he choreographed his wife Lily St. Cyr’s strip-tease numbers). Mainwaring wrote the story, but uncredited script fixer Frank Fenton provided some of the best lines, and the rank misogyny. “Get out”, Jeff Bailey tells Kathie who has betrayed him once again. “I have to sleep in this room”.